Our new exhibition, timed to coincide with the Battle’s 150th anniversary this summer, is titled “Gettysburg: History and Memory.” Here is the introductory text:
The Battle of Gettysburg resonates with us in ways that are somehow different
from our historical and emotional understanding of other aspects of the Civil
War. We remember Gettysburg differently from the other battles of the war. As
Americans, we have thought differently about it since the battle itself was fought.
Gettysburg was the largest engagement, not only of the Civil War, but ever seen
in the Western hemisphere. It was also, by far, the costliest battle of the war
with over 50,000 casualties. It is seen as a turning point – the “high tide” of the
Confederacy – when the remarkable successes of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia
at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville in the previous year were finally stopped
and began to be reversed. Gettysburg was the only battle to occur on Northern
soil. Confederate troops marched into the North and took food and supplies from
Pennsylvanians. They also seized free blacks, who they sent South into slavery. The
Gettysburg battlefield was dedicated four months after the battle, and President
Lincoln’s eloquence at the dedication ceremony stands as a monument of oratory.
As we mark its 150th anniversary this year, this exhibition takes as its focus the
3 days of combat in and around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on July 1-3,
1863. It also explores the ways in which what happened there has been understood
and remembered, by its own participants and by subsequent generations. In these
cases, you will find military manuals, memoirs, maps, histories, newspapers, and
an extremely rare first edition of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. We are grateful
to Henry Fulmer, Graham Duncan, and the South Caroliniana Library for their
assistance and loan of several letters and manuscripts which add a particularly rich,
personal dimension to the materials on display here, and to Greg Wilsbacher and the
Moving Image Research Collections for the footage on view in the gallery.
This exhibition has as its core an exhibition on the Battle of Gettysburg created
in 2000 by Patrick Scott for USC’s First-Year Reading Experience. The majority of
items on display come from two major collections given to the Irvin Department in
the late 20th century: a collection formed by Civil War historian Francis A. Lord,
who taught at USC for many years; and a military history collection formed by
Robert S. Chamberlain.
It will be open in the Irvin Department gallery through the end of July. Exhibit tours and some additional events are planned for June and July.